Over the last few weeks, we've brought out year two of our joint venture with The Production Line to ask you, the fans, to weigh in on whether Detroit should keep their impending free agents or part ways. In our posts, we laid out the pros and cons for each player and left you with a choice: should the Red Wings bring this guy back next season or not?
Today, we bring you the results of your voting. Before we get to the forwards, here's one last reminder about where Detroit sits in regards to the roster and salary cap:
The Detroit Red Wings currently have 18 players under contract for the 2012-23 season with $44M committed to that group. While this is a CBA year and we can't be sure, we're assuming that the Wings will bring $26M in cap space to the bargaining table looking for a two forwards (including one top six forward), two defensemen, and a backup goaltender.
Follow us below the jump to take a look at the forwards and then head over to TPL to see about the blueliners.
Justin Abdelkader, center, #8
6’1″ :: 215 lbs
3 NHL seasons (All with Detroit)
From Muskegon, MI
PRO-ABDELKADER :: 66.13%
NO-ABDELKADER :: 18.48%
UNSURE :: 15.40%
The voting for Abelkader may have best-captured the feeling among the fanbase that the Red Wings' lineup needs some fundamental changes. The 25-year old restricted free agent-to-be garnered just about 2/3rds of the voting, but left a large portion of no and unsure votes. In the comments of the post, the conversation tended to center around how he's a decent-enough 4th line center, but it's entirely possible that there's a better one out there which the Wings could get.
The Red Wings are almost certain to re-sign Abdelkader to a deal, seeing as how his familiarity, his loyalty, and his point production would all be difficult to replace. There are things about his game that he does not do well: he's the wings de-facto enforcer, but isn't much of one; he's not great at faceoffs; he's part of a struggling penalty kill and he takes too many non-fighting penalties. Still, just about any replacement for him that's seriously being discussed has a similar risk/benefit line, except most of them are older and are less likely to be able to improve.
Jiri Hudler, wing, #26
5’9″ :: 186 lbs
5 NHL seasons (1 KHL season)
From Olomouc, Czech Republic
PRO-HUDLER :: 26.40%
NO-HUDLER :: 58.20%
UNSURE :: 15.40%
Hudler's voting was the tightest among forwards with a decent amount of unsure answers, but by-and-large the people have spoken and they do not want the little guy they call Happy back in the Winged Wheel going forward. This of course may not be the best time for the beat writers to let us know that Ken Holland plans to offer him a contract, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's coming back.
In the comments of the Hudler post, the general feeling was somewhat more pragmatic than we've seen a lot of discussions about him go. The commenters mainly said no because, even as a 25-goal scorer, he simply doesn't bring enough of an all-around game to the table to make it work and be worth potentially stunting the growth of the promising young Gustav Nyquist. There are also numerous hints to the "change for the sake of change" argument in regards to the team needing a shakeup.
Bottom line is that Hudler is viewed as expendable. His history with the club does not make him a fan favorite and the impending assumption of his salary demands make what is largely a one-sided game too costly for the Wings.
Darren Helm, center, #43
5’11″ :: 192 lbs
3 NHL seasons (All with Detroit)
From St. Andrews, Manitoba
PRO-HELM :: 96.30%
NO-HELM :: 1.96%
UNSURE :: 1.73%
The Darren Helm voting was so one-sided that we had to take to making some pretty silly "what it" scenarios in the comments to find a reason the club should not want to re-sign him. All told, it took more than 28 minutes for the first "No" vote to come in and the total amount of them (17) falls within the probable margin for error. Although there is no way to track this, without anybody sounding off a reason, I'm going to assume that the only no votes came from people who were confused by the ballot and people who hate the Red Wings.
Ultimately, there can be arguments against Helm. He's speedy, but lacks finish. He's got some absolutely wonderful penalty kills on his resume, but is a big part of a PK unit that has struggled the last two years. However, anybody expecting a third-line center with zero flaws is going to be sorely disappointed. Helm draws penalties and makes defenses back off. Helm attacks whichever player you set him on and is one of the hardest workers on the ice consistently.
Darren Helm is exactly what any team in the league would want on their energy line because he provides boundless energy.
Tomas Holmstrom, wing, #96
6’0″ :: 200 lbs
15 NHL seasons (All with Detroit)
From Pitea, Sweden
PRO-HOLMSTROM :: 23.99%
NO-HOLMSTROM :: 66.55%
UNSURE :: 9.46%
During the Pro/No process, we had planned to do one more player, but he ended up retiring before we got that far. That retirement partially colored the voting for Tomas Holmstrom, but I'm not sure it did so to an extreme degree. Homer got a bigger percentage of No votes than Jiri Hudler, but don't take that to mean the fans like him less.
Homer's voting was a heartbreaking symptom of the realization that, while the Wings need the Tomas Holmstrom who was there with them for four Stanley Cups, The Tomas Holmstrom of today likely can't provide that to them. The voters who sounded off all tended to agree to two things: first, that losing Tomas Holmstrom's grit, fire, passion, and locker room presence would hurt the wings and second, that Holmstrom's reputation would also hurt them. Everybody had a different weight for the pros and cons, but for many, the cons were too much to overcome the good we know he could bring.
Homer hasn't decided on his future just yet, but a recent report that states the Red Wings will make a decision on whether they will offer him a contract in early July will likely make all the difference. It sounds as though Homer will come back if the Wings decide they have a space and a need for him after the initial free agency dust settles.
Thank you to all who participated in this project with your votes. Don't forget to head over to The Production Line and read their recap of the defensive voting.